Buckling under intense political pressure, the Centre today offered a quick-fix to tide over the UPSC row but only managed to antagonise the pro-English section even more while allowing the anti-English group to step up the agitation. The decision to not count the English comprehension marks in the Civil Services Aptitude Test now threatens to open up a Pandora's box on the issue of language.
This is what Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Jitendra Singh told Parliament today in a statement: "Government is of the opinion that in the Civil Services, Preliminary Examination, Paper II, the marks of the question-section on “English Language comprehension skills” should not be included for gradation or merit. Candidates, who appeared in Civil Services Examination 2011, may be given one more attempt in 2015."
While elucidating on the Centre's solution, the minister also used a term "language neutral". The Opposition immediately demanded an explanation as to what the government meant by being 'language neutral'.
The situation is such that the government has decided to go against the recommendations of the three-member Arvind Varma committee which suggested a status quo on the current format perhaps to protect its political base.
"Why is the government not taking the matter seriously and politicising it instead? They are playing with the careers of the students because they want to keep their votes in the Hindi belt intact. This language neutrality in written or oral examination is a myth," former IAS officer Ravi Srivastav told Times Now during a debate.
DMK MLA K Pandiarajan, who participated in the debate, aired a similar opinion.
"There is no way the government can discriminate against a certain group of students to benefit another group. Any attempt to weaken English as a link language will harm the integrity of the country. The government was wrong to say that English marks won't be counted. The language neutrality cannot happen in a manner that the minister said. This is pseudo-neutrality. It is absolutely an attempt to keep out English. You need to be culturally sensitive," said Pandiarajan.
There are two compulsory papers of 200 marks each in the civil services preliminary examination which are known as CSAT -I and CSAT-II. The CSAT-II paper tests the aspirants on comprehension, inter-personal skills including communication skills, logical reasoning and analytical ability, decision-making and problem-solving, general mental ability, basic numeracy, and English language comprehension skills (of Class X level). The actual problematic part is of the 22 marks of English comprehension in the paper.
Logically speaking, the language neutrality should actually mean that all aspirants must get the questions in their preferred language including local languages.
Rajya Sabha MP and CPI(M) leader Ritabrata Banerjee felt that if Hindi is given so much importance then all Indian registered languages should be given equal importance as well. "We are not against Hindi but every student must have the right to have the question in their own languages. This is a sensitive issue as far as language is concerned. For us mother toungue is of utmost dignity. All indian languages should have equal importance," said Banerjee.
Former IPS officer and ex-Jamshedpur MP Ajay Kumar found this whole agitation unnecessary.
"It is ridiculous that there is this agitation going on. It is about lowering the standard and get rid of the CSAT. Candidates who appear for the National Defence Academy test are usually from the poor and rural background. Does it mean that English should be removed from all competitive examiniations? This is typical BJP double-speak. They would English on Facebook for their India Shining campaign and all. They are politicising the whole issue and they don't want quality people in the most important posts of the country," Kumar said.
Former CAG, director general, Amitabh Mukhopadhyay even said that the decision to scrap counting of marks secured in Englsih comprehension test may not be constitutional.
"English is not the only market language across the world but it does not mean that it has no importance. It features at eight different places in the Constitution making it an important constitutional component. Even in the judiciary, the English version is the final one. Enlglish is privileged by our Constitution. A lot of thought has gone behind forging languages into the Indian education system -- mother tongue, English and Hindi. When the government says English marks won't be counted they are being unconstitutional. The civil servants must know English as Parliament debates in English many a times and some state legislatures also debate in English," said Mukhopadhyay.
Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha found it amazing that all the hullabaloo is restricted to the preliminary examination. "In the Civil Services Mains, English is compulsory with a paper 300 marks. This explains it is nothing but linguistic politics," Jha said.
Despite fuelling the anti-English protest, the Samajwadi Party tried to pass the buck to the Centre.
"The NDA has badly handled the case because they did not discuss the issue with the protesters before. The minister had said no exam will take place unless the problems are solved but they distributed the admit cards. It is not necessary that the best administrator will come out from those who knows English," said Samajwadi Party spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia in an attempt to keep the pro-Hindi section happy.
Attacked from all sides, BJP national spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi had a tough time defending his party and the government.
"There should not be any prejudice to any language. By deciding not to count marks scored in the English comprehension skills we have made the paper a purely objective and analytical test. Only prominence to English is nothing but an example of a biased and elitist mindset. The minister's statement today was limited only to CSAT. Nevertheless it is the prerogative of the UPSC and not of the government. UPSC is an autonomous body," Trivedi said.
Will the BJP sacrifice neutrality for its Hindi vote-bank? Time will tell.
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Updated Date: Aug 05, 2014 09:24:24 IST